Friday, October 17, 2008

Two little bluebirds.

Aren't they cute? They're little salt and pepper shakers I picked up at a gift shop a few years back. I'd forgotten I had them! I recently came across them again when we did our kitchen update. They were still in the and sound...but hidden away. I decided that they were too cute to be tucked away in a drawer and decided to display them proudly in my hutch. I just love them...

Cranberry beans...

The lady who waxes my eyebrows (yes, one of my little indulgences) gave me a recipe for Cranberry beans...the likes of which I'd never heard of. They sell them at our local fruit stand so I decided to give them a try. First of all, they're beautiful. Gorgeous. My photography..or lack thereof...does not do them justice. The color is amazing...I'd like to try and grow them next season for drying. I have to find out if they're heirloom or not...I'm not sure I want to grow anything that isn't. I'm pretty sure I don't...but I'm still doing the research on that one.
If they taste as good as they look, I'll share the recipe with you next week! It's a good weekend to do some cooking!

Friday, October 10, 2008

This is about as "mistreated" as you can get!

There's a blog I visit now and then, Nesting Place. She has this technique for window treatments called "Mistreatments". She's referring to inexpensive, easy ways to dress up windows...and she does a beautiful job of it. As I was photographing my kitchen the other day, I realized that *I* had a mistreatment.
This is the door in my kitchen that leads out to the back deck. As you can see, it's plain. It needed something. Some color. Some pizzazz. I achieved the color but I'm not so sure about the pizzazz part! Either way...I don't mind it.

Let me share how I did it. Since my door is metal I took two metal, magnetic clips and spaced them evenly above the window. I then took a cute tea towel I had purchased in a packaged set and folded it in half evenly (pretty much, anyway!). Then I put the folded side of the towel into the clips and...voila! An inexpensive valance. Major mistreatment...but I still like it.

It also appeals to my sense of frugality... which alwas makes me happy. I love a good deal!

Thursday, October 9, 2008

The last of the Roma tomatoes.

Yesterday I preserved the last of my plum tomatoes. I only had about a dozen but I wanted to try an idea I saw in a book on preserving. I cut the tomatoes in half and placed them on a wire rack on a cookie sheet lined with foil. I then sprinkled them with kosher salt, a bit of sugar and a drizzle of olive oil. I set the oven to 200 and forgot about them for 8 or 9 hours. When they were just about done I sterilized one jar and one lid. I cut some fresh rosemary from the backyard and placed it in the bottom of the jar, along with a small clove of slivered garlic. I then placed the warm tomatoes in the jar and then covered them with olive oil. Voila! Dried tomatoes in olive oil! How pretty are they? (Keep in mind I'm still working on the ol' photography...thoughts of white balance and ISO are running through my head.)

As I thought about this project I thought that it would probably be more beneficial to dry the tomatoes in my dehydrator next time. And I would also make sure I had other foods to dry, as make the use of energy worth it. For this particular batch I ran my gas oven all day on low...and it wasn't even full. Next matter how I do it...I'll dry more items at once. Maybe more tomatoes...some figs...maybe some apples and orange peels...and whatever other great recipes I come across in the meantime!

Kitchen Update: Before and After

In june my husband and I finally had the opportunity to give our kitchen a much needed update. We put in tile floors, granite countertops, a new stainless dishwasher and a new built-in hutch. What a difference it's made! I love it.

Before: Old hand-me-down hutch from my aunt. Cute. Yes. But not my "style", per se. In the old kitchen we had cheapo white linoleum that was WAY past it's prime and hideous white formica countertops that were stained and peeling up around the edges. Definitely not the showcase kitchen of a cabinet maker! (I was like the cobbler's kids...everyone had nice cabinets but me!) The island is now facing the other way...notice it's complete with the plastic bag of recycling hanging off the knob? Fancy, eh? Like The Pioneer Woman says, "I'm just keepin' it real."

After: Nice new hutch that my hubby built for me! I absolutely LOVE it. It holds a TON of stuff...and the bottom portion is deep enough for roasting pans, cookie sheets, food's perfect. I requested glass doors so that my cookbooks could show through. Something about the colorful covers peeking through the Seedy glass doors is so cozy and comforting to me. I love being able to see them. Notice the island is now turned the other way...which fits better and makes more sense. When we installed it originally 7 years ago we didn't have the hutch so it was fine. Once the old hutch came along it was quite cramped! You can't see the ugly lino floors in the old picture...but here you can see my nice, new, neutral floor tiles. I went with the 18" and I love it. I also love the warmth they bring. I know they say tile is cold...but the color and texture, in my opinion, add a warmth to the room that it didn't have before. Granted I haven't had them during the we'll see what I think in a few months! (Edit: In looking at this post I am realizing that my cabinets seem to have a blue tint to them. They are not blue...they're white. I'm just still learning how to use my camera and obviously didn't get my white balance set correctly!)

After: Stove area. Obviously my kitchen is tiny...10x10 on a good day. Then I had to go and fill it up with cute cabinets and useful islands. What was I thinking? Actually...I love it all. And although my husband doesn't "feel" me on the whole island thing...I find it indispensable. I use it ALL THE TIME. I chop there, can there, make lunches there, bake there...breakfast, lunch and dinner, I'm there. I love it. And yes, it takes up space...but it would be otherwise useless space if not for my beloved island.

After: The sink area...just because I have a picture of it. And you may notice that this counterspace and the bit of countertop near the stove, are the only bits of counter space that I have. So you can SEE why I NEED my beloved island! You may also notice in the dark corner there (the lighting in my kitchen is horrible) my giant zucchini. I found it hiding the other day and I was so excited! My zucchini plants last hurrah...

Because I'm not always focused...

Today I've decided to post a Haiku. Back in April, I believe, I read somewhere that it was National Poetry Month. So in honor of that I decided to TRY to post a Haiku a day on my old blog, The Frugal Feast. It was fun...and I was somewhat successful at posting them daily. I didn't always hit the mark...but I did create 30 Haiku, even if two were on the same day!
So here goes...

Morning breezes blow

Clearing my thoughts, fresh new day

Cool air on my cheeks

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

I made pickles!

Over the weekend I made the short trip out to the local vegetable stand, Larry's Produce. This place is hoppin'. It's always packed. The parking is always a nightmare. The other shoppers are always rude. And the prices are always GOOD. Not to mention the quality of the produce...gorgeous and delicious. So it's worth the minor inconveniences of being elbowed, shoved and having my toes stepped on.
My main goal was to pick up some pickling cucumbers because I was determined to learn how to make pickles. The selection was beautiful so I stuffed a bag full and moved on. And because I can never just get what's on my list, I looked around for more. I came across some Cranberry beans I'd heard about so I loaded a bag full of them. I bought green beans, lemons, limes, garlic (in case I decided to go Kosher..and I did), onions and some Asian pears...just because I love them.
After dinner on Sunday night I scrubbed cukes, stuffed jars and boiled vinegar and water and before I knew it I had (9) pints of homemade cucumbers! Some are cut in half...some are in chunks...some are in slices...some have garlic...some have chile flakes...some have both...and they ALL have dill seeds! And to add the cherry on top...every lid popped with that sweet sound we all wait to hear after removing our hard work from the hot water bath. I set the processed jars out on the counter on a clean towel and went to sit down a while (canning is hard work!) and to listen for those wonderful sounds. After about 30 minutes I'd heard all (9) *pings* and I knew it was a success. Now...for the real test...the taste. And from what I've read, we have to wait a week or two. I don't know if I can wait that long!
The picture below is of everything I've canned so far: 16 pints strawberry jam (minus about 7 or so that we've eaten or gifted!), (9) pints pickles, (5) pints peach halves. I know we can't "survive" on this small larder of preserves...but you've got to start somewhere, right? I've got a few plum tomatoes I'm going to dry and store in olive oil and I'm still going to do some Dilly Beans...I found a recipe I think sounds good on Recipezaar...I'll let you know how it goes!

Friday, October 3, 2008

A gardener is born.

Two weeks...and before I know it time has gotten away from me.
Winter is's in the air. I'm ready. Nothing better than rain and gray skies! The only down side of winter is not being able to garden. But I'll just do like the other gardeners do and PLAN, PLAN, PLAN! I've got my stacks of catalogs and garden books and graph paper and colored pencils at the ready...just waiting for that dreary, rainy day that I can stay in my jammies and design away. Admittedly, this may be my favorite part...what can I say? I'm a dreamer!
This past summer was my first real attempt at gardening. I dabbled in the past but was never really serious about it. I've always loved digging in the dirt...that's thanks to my grandmother. When I was younger I'd stay with her for a week or two during the summers. She loved to off we'd go. One summer she bought me five little .49 cent, 4-inch potted plants. I was in heaven. My love of gardening was born. For my birthday that following year she bought me a book about growing houseplants and a set of miniature gardening tools, complete with a glass mister. I think it was my 10th birthday...I felt so mature!
Fast forward 30 years...and my love of plants and gardening remains. (Further maturity is questionable! Sometimes I still FEEL 10!) I will admit, my green thumb in the houseplant department is lacking. Or maybe it's just the lack of good, bright light in my dark little hovel of a house. I don't know. Either way...the love of plants and gardening has evolved to fulfill my desire to feed my family good, organic food and my desire to work toward a more self-sustained lifestyle. It's interesting to trace back to the origins of see where it all started and why. And I'm so glad that it started with my grandmother. I will always consider her when I'm digging in the dirt and encouraging things to grow...we will always have that link. I love that she birthed that in me...that we will always have that connection...even after she's gone. Thank you, Noni. xo
(amazing photo by Shaun O'Boyle...I LOVE his photography)